Upon arriving to the donation center one can expect to hear “Do you have an appointment?”
If not, the person is turned away, but encouraged to attend the blood drive on Jan. 31 at the UMC. The Bonfils Mobile Blood Drive trailer arrived late to Folsom Plaza Thursday morning because of icy road conditions. The donation center was booked solid with appointments and running behind.
Those with appointments sat quietly on benches, most of them holding long questionnaire sheets where they’ve answered personal health inquiries like, “Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?” or, for male donors, “From 1977 to the present, have you had sexual contact with another man?”
The waiting area is filled with a wide array of people: old and young, black and white, male and female. Bonfils Marketing and Communications Director Tiffany Anderson said that this wide array extends into the entire blood donor community
Of Bonfils’ 80,000 active blood donors, the average age is 44 years old, 52 percent are female and 48 percent are male, and they are most often college-educated, registered voters who donate to several causes, Anderson said.
“There’s really no trend to it,” she said. “It’s interesting. We can be out in a rural community and everyone comes. Or we can be at our mobile blood drive downtown and we’ll get tons of people.”
While a person is eligible to donate once every eight weeks, the average Bonfils donor gives twice a year, Anderson said. Curt Williams, a 42-year-old Norlin librarian with blood type O-negative, said he tries to donate whenever there is a campus blood drive.
“I’m the universal donor,” Williams said. “I feel I’ve got a moral responsibility. I’ve got to do it.”
The first step of the hour-long donation process is registration. A Bonfils technician enters the contact information of new donors and updates the information for previous donors while the questionnaire is being filled out.
Next comes the strictly confidential second step of the blood donation process, where the technician can explore any questionnaire answers that might defer one from donating blood. This portion also includes the ever-dreaded finger prick.
The dark scarlet fluid fills a tiny glass tube, which the technician then places in a hematocrit (much like small centrifuge). A donor’s red blood cell proportion, blood pressure, pulse and temperature must all be within normal levels in order for the donor to be eligible. The technician then sends the donor out to the phlebotomists, a fancy name for the people about to jab the donor with a 16- or 17-gauge needle.
According to Bonfils’ website, Deferrals can happen for many reasons. Some of these reasons include having received tattoos, piercings or blood transfusions in the last 12 months, some medications and any history of HIV/AIDS, lymphoma or leukemia.
Austin Caldera, a 21-year-old junior majoring in biochemisty, made it to the donation chair.
“The needle definitely gets bigger every time,” Caldera said with a laugh from the teal recliner.
Outside the window, several students pass by the donation trailer without a second glance. According to research done by the Red Cross, the two most common reasons for not donating are “never thought about it” and “I don’t like needles.”
Williams said he thinks people who don’t donate are afraid of the unknown.
“They’re not sure what it is,” he said. “I think it’s mostly that they’re afraid of what it feels like. They’re not sure how it’s going to be.”
The Red Cross research says that more than 38,000 blood donations are needed every day and a total of 30 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S. Morgan Mauch, a 21-year-old senior majoring in integrative physiology who was ineligible for donation, said she is well aware of the need for blood.
“I think you don’t really hear about it a ton, but people always need blood transfusions, all the time,” Mauch said.
At the finish line of the donation experience, there is a smorgasbord of sugar-rich vending machine snacks: Fruit juice, cookies, and trail mix.
For more information on donating blood or to find a donation center near you, visit the Bonfils website here.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Emma Castleberry at Emma.email@example.com.